Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humanity and the Money Game

The need for money is psychological barrier humanity has constructed to artificially separate itself from the earthly abundance that already exists. Everything we need to thrive – food, land, shelter, water, education, energy, clothing, home furnishings, travel, health care – exist in quantity on the other side of the money barrier. All we need do to access those items is to work continually for money, which we then give away in exchange for the things we need to survive.

The money game was already in full swing when all of us were born. We didn’t invent it, and we’ve not stopped playing it long enough to really study its flaws and limitations. We’re so focused on personally surviving in the game that we haven’t had time to consider the value of deconstructing this barrier to our collective abundance. We’ve instead turned our attention to finding new and clever ways to siphon more and more money away from each other, in the hope that we can individually accumulate enough cash to at last punch through the barrier and gain permanent access to the wild abundance that exists on the other side.

Every so often, a few people manage to accumulate so much money that other people’s profit-making schemes are no longer capable of siphoning away very much of their cash, and for those people the barrier falls for good. They find themselves in material heaven, with access to endless delights measured by all the best goods and services the money game has to offer. The Bill Gateses, the Sergei Brins and everyone who has ever won first prize in a lottery have all experienced the falling away of this psychological barrier to abundance, the same way the people of East Germany experienced the collapse of the Berlin Wall and at last felt physical freedom.

The rich, in turn, may retain enough compassion for their friends and neighbors still trapped behind the barrier to try and help them punch through it as well, but no wealthy person can give away enough money to make a significant difference in the quality of life for most of the rest of us.

If all the wealthy gave away most of their savings to large numbers of people who were still stuck behind the barrier, all they’d manage to do is to assist those people in permeating the barrier for a moment or two, before the barrier moved away from the crowd again. For example, if Bill Gates gave away forty billion dollars and created four thousand new millionaires, those millionaires would soon be competing with each other to purchase new houses, fancy cars and expensive services. Once the people who create those products and services noticed the increased competition, they’d raise prices to draw more cash away from those newly created millionaires and enhance their own efforts to punch through the money barrier and gain access to all the things the millionaires have.

It seems then, that the more money we invent, lend, grow and trade among ourselves behind the barrier, the more each of us will personally need to accumulate if we hope to punch through the barrier. That’s because the value of money is relative, not fixed. Whether or not we punch through to abundance then, isn’t a function of whether we’ve been able to accumulate a hundred thousand, five hundred thousand or a million dollars for ourselves. It’s dependent upon each one of us accumulating vastly more than most everyone else accumulates – no matter what that number of future dollars might turn out be. Yesterday’s millionaires don’t have nearly the clout they once did, since prices continue to rise and siphon off more and more of our cash as we play the game. Additionally, more people are entering the game every day through population gains and the ongoing exportation of capitalism, so more and more money needs to flow to entice those newcomers firmly into the game.

Since it’s impossible for every one of us to accumulate relatively more money than everybody else, the money game sets up a reality where – in order for there to be any winners – there must always be a far greater number of losers who remain stuck behind the barrier and continue to work very hard to play the game. They may be willing or unwilling participants, but they must not be allowed to quit the game or the winning players will have no one with whom to continue to play.

Modern creations like interest, mortgages, insurance policies, taxes, utility fees, etc. ensure that money will continue to be siphoned away from most of the players before they manage to accumulate too much. These “fee traps” help ensure that the majority can’t quit playing the game without surrendering the necessities of life. People who try to go around the barrier by taking what they need or by refusing to pay trap fees are labeled “criminals” and are punished for their refusal to play the game.

The wealthy can afford to invest some of their money into finding creative new ways to avoid having their hoards of cash siphoned off by the workers who remain stuck behind the barrier. They invent tax shelters, move their production facilities to countries where labor costs are cheaper, install automated assembly lines that eliminate human jobs, and make workers compete with each other for increasingly scarce positions, which gives them the power to pay out lower wages. They also reduce paid benefits, eliminate retirement plans and force workers to cover more and more of their daily costs of living. Through taxation, governments try to provide a safety net for those who can’t manage to meet their daily needs, but because government is controlled by the wealthy it creates that safety net by taxing worker wages instead of hoarded wealth, which siphons even more money away from the workers who remain stuck behind the barrier.

The danger for us in continuing to endlessly play this game can be seen by noticing what is at stake – for us as individuals, and for life itself. Unlike a board game, this game allows people to die if they can’t pay for what they need to survive. People therefore become enslaved to the game through the ongoing (and very real) fear of death. Meanwhile, those who appear to be winning must continually hoard more money to retain their access to abundance and privilege. They wantonly use up scarce resources and damage the entire planetary ecosystem in a relentless quest to manufacture more and more “necessary” goods and services they can then impose on the workers who live behind the barrier. Clever advertising seduces workers into believing they need more things, and social laws (auto registration, property taxes, water bills, etc.) force them into spending their hard-earned money on life's necessities. Long term, this game cannot continue without destroying the entire field of abundance that sustains us. There can BE no absolute winners in the money game; only a few who may beat the system in the short run but who help bring down our entire civilization in the end.

The point of the money game – which places huge emphasis on material consumption and the ‘need’ for us to work to pay for life’s necessities – is to continue to siphon money away from the masses of working people so they can’t ever punch through the barrier themselves. That means they must remain slaves to the game for their entire productive lifetimes, after which they become society’s discards and are considered financial “drains” on public assets.

Children too, are not revered as gifts for whose nurturing and care our society is responsible in this game. They're treated as future business commodities – potential workers who will step into the money game at maturity and support its continuation. We educate them only so far as their knowledge can be “standardized” in a way that will enable them to plug seamlessly into the system when they reach working age.

The money game offers no vision for the future. It holds no promise for humanity as a species, for our planet as a sustainable and abundant source of life, or for the higher evolution of human consciousness. All it promises to do is to bleed the life energy out of most of us in exchange for our short-term survival. The questions we must ask ourselves then, are these: Do we want to continue to play this game? If not, how do we stop? How can we tear down the psychological barrier to our own success that we’ve erected inside our own minds?

I suspect the answer is for enough of us to love life - in all its many forms - fiercely enough to come together and "just say no" to the game.